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Newsline - November 15, 2000




BEREZOVSKII TO JOIN EMIGRE COMMUNITY ON PERMANENT BASIS?

Following Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii's recent failure to appear before Russian federal prosecutors, Boris Berezovskii issued a statement on 14 November saying he will not comply with a summons to appear at the Prosecutor-General's Office the following day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). Berezovskii complained that he cannot return to Russia because of the authorities' "constantly increasing pressure" on him. "In effect, I am being forced to choose between becoming a political prisoner and becoming a political emigrant," he stated. Berezovskii also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of bringing new life to the "so-called Aeroflot case, [which] was invented by [former Prime Minister Yevgenii] Primakov" because of Berezovskii's criticisms of Putin's policies. He continued that Putin's actions "have demonstrated that he obviously does not understand the basics of democracy." According to "The Moscow Times" on 15 November, Berezovskii also acknowledged that he had transferred cash from Aeroflot to "fund the presidential campaign" earlier this year and the pro-Kremlin Unity party. JAC

MEDIA-MOST BLAMES DEAL'S COLLAPSE ON MEDIA MINISTRY, FEDERAL PROSECUTORS

Following Gazprom Media's abrupt withdrawal from an agreement with her company on 14 November, Media-MOST lawyer Geralina Lyubarskaya told reporters the same day that Gazprom must have come under pressure from the Prosecutor-General's Office. That office had announced an arrest warrant for Media-MOST head Gusinskii the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). Media-MOST spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii also blamed Media Minister Mikhail Lesin for the deal's collapse, accusing Lesin of working behind the scenes to prevent a settlement. Yabloko head Grigorii Yavlinskii and Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov also suggested that there has been political interference. Meanwhile, one of Gazprom Media's lawyers, Alisa Turova, told Ekho Moskvy that she convinced Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh that the agreement contravened existing laws, while a member of the company board of directors, Anatolii Blinov, said that the accord was flawed and unenforceable. JAC

PUTIN URGES APEC COUNTRIES TO INVEST IN RUSSIA...

Addressing a gathering of businessmen on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Brunei on 15 November, Russian President Putin promised less red tape and government involvement in the economy. "Our tariffs will be reduced and [there will be] legislation to make the economy more transparent to make Russia more attractive to foreign investment," he pledged, urging foreign investors to consider Russia's energy export industry, chemical and petrochemical industry, and the natural resources in Siberia. Putin also said that Russia is seeking to rapidly improve its relations with WTO in order to gain membership to that body. He declined, however, to speculate when his country might become a member of the organization, saying only that WTO entry is a "priority." JC

...STRESSES RUSSIA'S ROLE IN REGION

In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and several foreign media outlets ahead of his participation in the APEC summit, Russian President Putin underlined that Russia will continue its policy, begun several years ago, of looking toward Asia and the Pacific region. As a country straddling Europe and Asia, Russia can play a major role in the Pacific economy, he added. Among the large-scale economic cooperation plans, Putin singled out exporting energy to Japan via Sakhalin and the construction of pipelines from Siberia to China and North and South Korea. He also stressed that APEC countries could make profitable use of Russian transport routes. And he encouraged APEC countries to play a role in the exploitation of Siberia's natural resources, whose potential, he said, Russia is only beginning to tap. JC

PUTIN, YAKOVLEV DIFFER OVER APPROACH TO ABM?

One day after Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces General Vladimir Yakovlev proposed an "ABM index" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000), which he suggested would accommodate U.S. plans to deploy a limited national missile defense system. a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official denied that Moscow is backing down from its opposition to such a system. Yurii Kapralov told reporters on 14 November that there is "no softening" on Moscow's position on ABM. Yakovlev is entitled to his own view, Kapralov added, but only Putin can rule on policy matters. Speaking on 14 November in Ulan Bator, which he visited before proceeding to the APEC summit in Brunei, Putin noted that his proposal to consider even more radical cuts than those provided for under START-III was made "deliberately" to ensure that arms control remains on the agenda during the period of uncertainty over who will replace Clinton in the White House. JC

U.S. NAVY DENIES RUSSIAN PLANES DEFIED RADAR

The U.S. Navy has denied a Moscow newspaper report that two Russian jets last weekend slipped past the radar defenses of the "USS Kitty Hawk" aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan. The Japanese-based U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement released on 14 November that the vessel was "well aware" of the Russian planes, which were in the area to photograph the carrier. It added that the Russian aircraft were detected, tracked, identified and then escorted by U.S. fighters. "Izvestiya" had reported the same day that the two Russian planes had slipped past the aircraft carrier's radar defenses undetected, and it had suggested that the incident was a show of Russian military strength on the eve of Putin's participation in the APEC summit in Brunei. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry refused to confirm or deny the report, according to AP. JC

PRESIDENT CLINTON MEETS PRESIDENT PUTIN FOR THE LAST TIME?

Also in Brunei on 15 November, U.S. President Clinton and Russian President Putin met for what was scheduled to be their last encounter before Clinton leaves the White House. Putin praised Clinton for achieving a "breakthrough" in U.S.-Russian relations, adding that Moscow hopes "that torch will be given to whoever is the next president." The two leaders discussed the Middle East peace process, arms controls issues, and encouraging the rapprochement between the two Koreas, a Kremlin spokesman told Reuters. The report did not say whether the two leaders discussed the case of accused U.S. spy Edmond Pope. Earlier, a U.S. National Security Council spokesman had said Clinton would raise that issue with Putin. JC

RUSSIAN ELECTION OFFICIAL CALLS ON BUSH, GORE TO MAKE PEACE

Also in Ulan Bator on 14 November, President Putin underlined that the Russian government is expecting continuity in its relationship with the U.S. "whoever becomes president," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2000). Meanwhile, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, who recently concluded a trip to the U.S. to observe the presidential elections there, spoke out against "numerous legal proceedings" to determine the results of that ballot, concluding that these are complicating a situation in which continuing uncertainty about the results undermines the authority of U.S. democracy. He predicted that it is most likely that "the principal players will reach some compromise to save their own faces and the face of the democratic state." State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Dmitrii Rogozin also chimed in, saying the elections vividly demonstrated "the archaic nature of the democratic system in the U.S., the illiteracy of a huge number of voters, and the complexity and intricacy of the voting process itself." JAC

RUSSIA, IRAQ TAKE STEPS TO END UN EMBARGO

Speaking on 14 November in Cairo, the next stop on his seven-day tour of the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters that the main result of his visit to Iraq was "joint practical steps" aimed at lifting the UN embargo on Baghdad and strengthening bilateral cooperation. Ivanov noted a "very high degree of mutual understanding" between the two countries. And he repeated Moscow's frequent call that the U.S. and U.K. stop "violating Iraq's air space" by patrolling the no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq. JC

GANTEMIROV, YASTRZHEMBSKII EXCHANGE ACCUSATIONS OVER GROZNY CLASHES

Pro-Moscow Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov accused federal forces on 14 November of killing a Chechen civilian and two policemen in a shootout in Grozny the previous day, AFP and Interfax reported. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied any knowledge of that incident but accused Gantemirov of taking seven Chechen fighters prisoner on 12 November after Russian troops stormed the high-rise building in Grozny that the Chechens were defending. Three Chechen fighters and one Russian officer died as a result of that clash. Yastrzhembskii said a commission has been formed to ascertain the identity and whereabouts of the seven Chechen fighters detained by Gantemirov. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 November, the seven included field commander Arbi Baraev. LF

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADER SAYS FIGHTING COULD END BY SPRING

Interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on 14 November that the war in Chechnya could end by the spring of 2001, Interfax reported. Kadyrov claimed that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has lost control over his field commanders and can take no action without the consent of Shamil Basaev. Russian military spokesmen reported the same day that Russian troops throughout Chechnya had come under fire from Chechen fighters over the past 24 hours. LF

CRIMES AGAINST FOREIGNERS INCREASING...

The number of crimes against foreign citizens in Moscow rose by 10 percent during the first 10 months of this year, compared with the same period last year, Yurii Novikov, head of a Moscow city Interior Ministry directorate, told reporters on 14 November. According to Novikov, 465 crimes, including 10 murders, were committed against citizens from countries outside the CIS from January to October 2000. Citizens of Vietnam were the most common victims (71 assaults), followed by those of China (47), Turkey (30), and the U.S. (15). Foreign citizens, for their part, committed 264 crimes during the same period. JAC

...AS AUDIT CHAMBER SAYS IT'LL CHECK INTO ACTIVITIES OF CERTAIN FOREIGN FIRMS

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin told reporters on 14 November that his agency will inspect the activities of a number of foreign companies operating in Russia, Interfax reported. He said an agreement to this effect has already been worked out between the chamber and diplomatic representatives of some 90 countries. Stepashin declared that he told the diplomats that "de-privatization" of Russian enterprises with foreign capital "will not affect those enterprises where gross violations are not revealed." JAC

NATURAL GAS EXPORT REVENUES SOAR

Russia's natural gas exports slipped 0.1 percent during the first nine months of the year to total 130.43 billion cubic meters, Interfax reported on 14 November. In terms of value, however, exports rose 60 percent to total $11,363 million. Last year, Russia exported 188.79 billion cubic meters of gas worth $10.85 billion. JAC

RUSSIA TO PROP UP BELARUSIAN CURRENCY AT SOME FUTURE DATE?

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters on 14 November that the Supreme State Council of the Union of Russia and Belarus will make a final decision on the introduction of a single currency on 30 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Under a draft interstate currency agreement, the Russian ruble will become the single means of payment on the territory of the two countries starting 1 January 2005. Kasyanov spoke to reporters after addressing a session of the union's Council of Ministers. Kasyanov also revealed that he discussed with the union's Council of Ministers the same day Russia's granting of a credit to the government of Belarus to stabilize the Belarusian currency and support Belarus's payments balance. JAC

NEW DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER APPOINTED

Mikhail Dmitriev, former deputy minister for industry, science and technology, has been appointed deputy defense minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. Dmitriev's portfolio previously included military-technical cooperation. Dmitriev is a former Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) officer. A spokesman for the SVR told the agency that Dmitriev "has the reputation of a clever and honest officer." JAC

GOVERNMENT CONTEMPLATES FINES ON MEDIA'S USE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma's Committee on Federation Affairs (Unity) Kadyr Bicheldei announced on 14 November that members of the lower legislative house are working on legislation that would impose fines on media organizations that use foreign words, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. Bicheldei was participating in a roundtable on the Russian language in media broadcasts at the Media Ministry. According to ITAR-TASS, the Media Ministry has provided financial support for a website specializing in the Russian language. (The agency did not provide the address.) Participants in the roundtable sent a telegram to Prime Minister Kasyanov expressing their support for the federal program for the Russian language and their willingness to make sure it is implemented. JAC

RUSSIANS TO ADMIT WALLENBERG ILLEGALLY DETAINED?

Citing unidentified sources in the Main Military Prosecutor's Office, Interfax reported on 13 November that President Putin has ordered the presidential Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Reprisals to start a process that would lead to the rehabilitation of Swedish diplomat and World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg. According to those sources, a presidential decree will "recognize Wallenberg's illegal imprisonment and death in Soviet prisons," making it possible to apply a rehabilitation law. Wallenberg, who is credited with having saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews while serving as a diplomat in Budapest, disappeared in January 1945 on his way to meet with a Soviet commander in Hungary. According to the official Soviet version, he was arrested as a spy by Red Army counterintelligence and died of a heart attack, aged 34, at Moscow's Lubyanka prison in July 1947. However, he is said to have been sighted several times in post-war years by Soviet dissidents in labor camps. JC




ARRESTED BUSINESSMAN TO REMAIN IN ARMENIAN DETENTION

A Yerevan district court ruled late on 13 November that arrested businessman and 21st Century Association President Arkadii Vartanian must remain in jail pending his trial on charges of calling for the violent overthrow of the Armenian leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 November. Vartanian's wife, Elena, rejected that charge as "absolutely absurd" and vowed to campaign for her husband's release. Also on 13 November, Noyan Tapan circulated the text of an open letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian signed by representatives of the Russian intelligentsia and former Russian ambassador to Yerevan Vladimir Stupishin. The letter notes Vartanian's earlier service to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and calls for his release, adding that the signatories do not believe he would ever take any action that would damage the interests of Armenia or the Armenian people. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TO BOYCOTT NEW PARLIAMENT

Meeting in Baku on 14 November, representatives of the Musavat, Liberal, Democratic, and Azerbaijan National Independence Parties and of both wings of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party adopted a three-point statement saying they do not recognize the validity of the 5 November parliamentary election and will not cooperate with the new legislature, Turan reported. The signatories demanded the annulment of the poll results and new elections, and they also confirmed their intention to convene a rally in Baku on 18 November to lend support to that demand. Also on 14 November, "Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party, condemned the planned rally and accused the opposition of being unable to accept its poll defeat. Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov has warned that if the rally takes place, police will disperse would-be participants, "Sharg" reported on 14 November. LF

UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR EXPEDITING SOLUTION TO ABKHAZ CONFLICT

The UN Security Council issued a statement on 14 November expressing its "deep concern" at the failure of Georgia and Abkhazia to reach a comprehensive political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict that would clarify Abkhazia's status vis-a-vis the central Georgian government, RFE/RL's UN correspondent reported. Security Council President Peter Van Walsum called upon "both parties, in particular the Abkhaz side, to undertake immediate efforts to move beyond the impasse." The UN Secretary-General's special envoy for Abkhazia, Dieter Boden, has drafted a settlement proposal on the division of authorities between Tbilisi and Sukhum within a single Georgian state. The Abkhaz leadership has consistently rejected that draft as a basis for negotiations, arguing that the Abkhaz population expressed approval of the breakaway region's independence in a referendum in October 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT OVER VISAS

During talks in Moscow last week, Georgian and Russian government delegations failed to reach agreement on a new regime for travel between the two countries, Caucasus Press reported on 14 November. Tbilisi rejected the Russian proposal to introduce a visa requirement for all Georgian residents except for the population of the unrecognized Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In a statement released on 14 November, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the Georgian position as "unconstructive" and said that unless an agreement is reached, the visa requirement for Georgian citizens will take effect on 5 December. Also on 14 November, Revaz Adamia, leader of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia parliamentary faction, said that if Russia introduces such a visa requirement, Georgia will retaliate by demanding visas not only for Russian citizens wishing to visit Georgia but also for those resident there. The latter category would include Russian military personnel stationed in Georgia and their families. LF

DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION

Several hundred Azerbaijanis made homeless during the Karabakh conflict blocked traffic in Baku for 30 minutes on 14 November, Turan reported. They demanded the "liberation" of Nagorno-Karabakh, the resignation of President Heidar Aliev, and the advent to power of the opposition Musavat party, for which most of them voted on 5 November. They also demanded the resumption of electricity supplies to their temporary accommodation, claiming that those supplies had been cut because they did not vote for Yeni Azerbaycan. LF

HUNGER-STRIKERS PROTEST KAZAKHSTAN'S LAND LAW

The four protesters who embarked on a hunger strike in Almaty last week to demand publication of the controversial draft land law passed by the lower house of the parliament late last month have been joined by another four, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on14 November. The hunger-strikers also want both chambers of the parliament to debate an alternative draft law prepared by opposition parties. Earlier attempts to push through legislation that would permit the sale of agricultural land sparked similar protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 June 2000). LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS ECONOMIC CRISIS OVER

In his annual address to a joint session of the two houses of the parliament on 14 November, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said the country has finally overcome the consequences of the economic crisis of 1998, Interfax reported. Akaev said GDP grew by 4.3 percent during the first 10 months of this year, while the national currency lost only 6.7 percent in value over that period, compared with 46 percent during the first 10 months of 1999. He predicted that the budget deficit will be eliminated by 2003. In August 2000, that deficit amounted to 864.6 million soms ($10.8 million), which is equal to 2.5 percent of GDP. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO REDUCE STATE-SECTOR PERSONNEL...

President Saparmurat Niyazov informed a cabinet session on 10 November that as of 1 January 2001, some 10,000 employees of the Ministry of Education and 11,000 from the Ministry of Health will be laid off, Interfax reported on 14 November, citing an unnamed government source. The workloads of the remaining teachers and physicians will be increased. Additional cuts in administrative personnel will be made in all ministries except the Defense Ministry. The reductions will reportedly make it possible to double the wages of state sector employees and to raise those of Ministry of Defense personnel and border guards by 50 percent. LF

...AND INTRODUCE NEW EMPLOYMENT RECORDS

Niyazov also announced at the 10 November cabinet meeting that it is planned to replace existing Soviet-era individual employment records [trudovaya knizhka] by a more detailed document, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 November. The new document will record not only an individual's present and former employers but also his family status, his "services to society," his salary and tax liability, any loans he has taken out, and pension and medical insurance contributions. Criminal convictions will also be recorded. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES 40 PERCENT RISE IN WAGES...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 14 November said he has instructed the government to increase wages for state-sector employees by 40 percent in December, Interfax reported. Lukashenka noted that the pay rise will primarily benefit teachers and doctors. "The wage increase is not an empty promise. We will really do that," the agency quoted him as saying. JM

...AND 30 PERCENT INCREASE IN ARMY COMBAT ABILITY

Lukashenka also promised to enhance by the end of 2001 the combat ability of Belarus's armed forces by 30 percent. He did not specify what steps will be taken to achieve this end. "Today we have the best army in terms of combat ability in the post-Soviet territory," Lukashenka said, quoting unidentified Western experts. "I do not want anybody to poke his nose [into Belarus's affairs]." JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS ORT JOURNALIST INVOLVED IN DISAPPEARANCE CASE

Belarusian President Lukashenka also said that last week's film by the Russian Public Television (ORT) about the disappearance of ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski in Minsk earlier this year was politically motivated. "The man who made the film [Zavadski's colleague Pavel Sheremet, an ORT journalist] has [something] to do with Zavadski's disappearance," Interfax quoted Lukashenka as saying. According to the film, Zavadski was kidnapped by people who worked for the Belarusian president's security service and the Belarusian Interior Ministry's special task force "Almaz." According to Sheremet, some of those people have been arrested, but Belarusian prosecutors are keeping silent about the case. JM

UKRAINIAN TEACHERS, CHORNOBYL VICTIMS WANT MORE MONEY

Some 6,000 teachers and 1,500 people affected by the Chornobyl disaster held two separate rallies at the parliamentary building on 14 November to demand that the government increase their meager wages and social benefits and pay overdue allowances, Interfax reported. According to official data, the government owes teachers some 60 million hryvni ($11 million) in unpaid wages. There are some 2.2 million people in Ukraine eligible for social benefits because of damage to their health caused by the Chornobyl accident in 1986. The government's budget draft for 2001, which the parliament is currently debating, provides for considerable cuts in social benefits. JM

IMF TO LOAN $250 MILLION TO KYIV THIS YEAR?

Julian Berengaut, the head of an IMF mission to Ukraine, suggested on 14 November that the fund may lend Ukraine $250 million this year if the government takes into consideration IMF concerns regarding the 2001 budget draft, AP reported. "We've made quite a lot of progress [on the budget issue]," Berengaut said, commenting on his talks with Ukrainian Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov. Yekhanurov said the government, at the fund's suggestion, has lowered planned revenues from privatization in 2001 from 9 billion hryvni ($1.63 billion) to 5.9 billion hryvni. The IMF wants Kyiv to adopt a balanced budget for 2001. Yekhanurov noted that currently there is a 3 percent budget deficit if IMF calculation methods are used. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES SECURITY POLICY PRINCIPLES

The Estonian government on 14 November approved the country's security policy principles, ETA reported. NATO had earlier recommended the approval of such a document. In its final form, the document states that Estonia does not foresee any direct military threat in the near future but notes that organized crime, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and possible environmental disasters are possible threats to state security. Other non-military risks include mass migration caused by ethnic or economic disasters, international terrorism, and trade with drugs and weapons. Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves noted that the participation of the Ministries of the Environment, Social Affairs, Economics, and Interior Affairs in preparing the document, together with the Defense Ministry, indicates that security is not solely a military issue. SG

LATVIA LOSES CASE IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION COURT

Despite a cabinet decision not to publicize the matter, Finance Minister Gundars Berzins has revealed that the International Court of Arbitration in Stockholm ruled last month that Latvia should pay $2.5 million to the Swedish company SwemBalt AB, LETA reported on 14 November. The court ruled that Latvia has violated the Latvian-Swedish intergovernmental agreement on the promotion and mutual protection of investments. The company had brought the ship "Feederchif" to Riga in 1993 with the purpose of establishing a trade center on board the vessel, but the planned projects were not implemented. In 1996, when the owners had failed to show up and the condition of the vessel had deteriorated to such a degree that there was a danger of its sinking, the Riga Port Administration sold the ship by auction and the vessel was cut into scrap metal. Prime Minister Andris Berzins ordered a probe to establish who was guilty in the matter and why Latvia failed to defend its interests properly. The court ruling cannot be appealed, but Latvian lawyers have demanded explanations. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE PROPOSES CUTS IN DEFENSE SPENDING

The parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee on 14 November recommended that the government reduce next year's defense spending from 1.9 percent of the GDP, which the previous Conservative government had approved, BNS reported. Committee chairman Centrist Kestutis Glaveckas did not give a figure for the reduction but said that Lithuania, in its current financial situation, can afford to spend 1.83-1.85 percent of GDP on defense. Noting that neither the Foreign or Defense Ministries were consulted on the matter, former Premier Andrius Kubilius declared that the cuts would force the Lithuanian government to revise the national NATO Integration Program, recently presented to Brussels; he voted against the cuts. Seven committee members supported the cuts, while another former premier, Gediminas Vagnorius, abstained. SG

POLAND, LITHUANIA TO BE LINKED BY 'POWER BRIDGE'

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said after a 14 November meeting with his Polish counterpart, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, that the two countries will be linked by a 140-kilometer "power bridge," PAP reported. Valionis told journalists that Lithuania has no links with Poland's power grid and has to send its energy to Poland via Belarus. According to Valionis, the construction of such a link can be completed within a year. Valionis added that both countries will seek EU assistance to finance the project. JM

POLISH POLICE CLAIM TO HAVE ARRESTED MOSCOW BOMBING SUSPECT

PAP reported on 14 November that a citizen of Daghestan arrested by Polish police in August may be linked to the terrorist attack in a Moscow underground pedestrian crossing the same month. The bomb planted in the tunnel killed 12 people and injured more than 100. Police obtained clues about the possible link of the suspect to the Moscow attack from four people from Daghestan and elsewhere in Russia who were arrested on 14 November on charges of illegally possessing weapons and explosives. JM

POLL SUGGESTS LIBERAL COALITION WILL WIN CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS

The four-party coalition of small liberal parties is most likely to win the second round of elections to one-third of the Senate seats on 19 November, according to a poll by the SC&C and STEM agencies, CTK reported on 14 November. The liberal coalition is likely to win at least 11 seats in the Senate, the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) seven, and independent candidates two. The poll suggests that the Communists (KSCM) and the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) may not win any seats. The race for six seats is too close to predict, according to the poll. Only one of the 27 seats was decided in last weekend's first round of voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). JC

GREEK PRESIDENT SEEKS CZECH SUPPORT FOR BALKAN RECONSTRUCTION

On the first day of his visit to the Czech Republic, Konstantinos Stephanopoulos said that he is seeking Czech support for Greek efforts toward the reconstruction of the Balkans, CTK reported on 14 November. JC

SLOVAK RULING PARTIES AGREE TO KEEP COALITION PACT INTACT

Leaders of the ruling coalition parties agreed at their meeting on 14 November that they do not need to change their coalition pact, TASR reported. Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, said Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet has been strengthened as a result of the meeting. However, Bugar noted that his party sees shortcomings in the government's performance, particularly in the legislative, judicial, and law enforcement spheres and in implementing public administration reform, fighting unemployment, and managing public finances. JM

HEAD OF MINORITY OFFICE DISMISSED IN HUNGARY

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 14 November dismissed Toso Doncsev as head of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities, Hungarian media reported. Ildiko Gal, a Justice Ministry spokesman, said the ministry's trust in Doncsev "had been shaken" but no objections were raised against his professional work. "Nepszabadsag" reported, however, that Doncsev was dismissed because of disagreements with the ministry's political state secretary, Csaba Hende. MSZ




MULTIETHNIC PARTY AHEAD IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS

The OSCE reported on 14 November that the multiethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP) has a slim lead in Bosnian elections for seats in the Muslim-Croat Federation legislature, AP reported. The OSCE said that with 70 percent of the votes tallied for the federation legislature, the SDP has 25.9 percent and the Muslim nationalist Party for Democratic Action (SDA) 25.1 percent. The nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) has 19.5 percent of the vote. The reformist Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina is fourth with 14.8 percent. In elections to the Bosnian parliament, the results are similar, with the SDP gaining 26.6 percent, the SDA 25 percent, and the HDZ 23 percent. In the Republika Srpska, the ultranationalist Serb Democratic Party, which was founded by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, has a commanding 41.7 percent of the vote. The Party of Democratic Progress has 16.8 percent. The U.S. ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Thomas Miller, said that "the trend in terms of going away from nationalist parties is in the right direction. But it's not dramatic." PB

U.S., UN, EU DISAPPOINTED AT LEVEL OF SUPPORT FOR BOSNIAN NATIONALISTS

James Cunningham, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, said in New York on 14 November that although the U.S. is encouraged by the "slow and steady progress" of moderate parties in Bosnia, it is disappointed that nationalist parties still have so much voter support, AP reported. Cunningham told the UN Security Council that the U.S. will "continue to urge that obstructionists be kept out of the government." Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, told the council that in addition to the strong showing by the hard-line Bosnian Serbs, the HDZ increased its support by campaigning "under a banner of fierce criticism and open defiance of the international community." He added that HDZ leader Ante Jelavic continues to issue "statements of defiance against the international community." Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy and security affairs chief, said "I am disappointed that the nationalist message is still so powerful at a time when Bosnia's neighbors have turned their back on past policies and have resolutely embarked on a forward-looking course." PB

EU REMOVES TRAVEL BAN FOR MANY TOP YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS

The EU lifted a travel ban on several top aides and officials of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, AP reported on 15 November. The revised blacklist does not include some 184 people previously banned, including Yugoslav Army chief of staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, secret service chief Rade Markovic, and Milosevic top aide Gorica Gajevic. The news of the revised list was sharply criticized by members of reformist parties in Yugoslavia. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), said the list was created by "someone with sympathies towards the Milosevic regime. I was most surprised by the removal of Rade Markovic... This is a misuse and a manipulation because at the last DOS meeting nobody knew anything about it." PB

CLINTON ENVOY ARRIVES IN BELGRADE

James O'Brien, U.S. President Bill Clinton's Balkan envoy, arrived in Belgrade on 14 November for talks aimed at restoring diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. O'Brien said last week he expects to meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and others to discuss resuming ties. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the restoration of ties between the two countries is "something that should take place very soon." PB

YUGOSLAVIA SET TO JOIN IMF, EBRD THIS YEAR--BUT NOT WORLD BANK

Pedro Solbes, the EU's monetary affairs commissioner, said on 14 November that Yugoslavia will be quickly admitted to world financial institutions, including the IMF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Reuters reported. Solbes said that the international community will provide aid to Belgrade through the winter but that "in the long term, we think the Republic of Yugoslavia must be treated like any other country." Solbes was speaking in Paris, where IMF, EBRD, G-7, World Bank, and UN representatives were meeting. The World Bank said Belgrade's renewed membership in the bank will hinge on agreeing to a schedule for the repayment of Yugoslavia's debt to the bank, which totals some $1.7 billion. PB

DANUBE TO BE CLEARED BY NEXT SUMMER

Bernard Chenever, the head of the EU's Danube Commission, said on 14 November in Novi Sad that work to clear the Danube River of collapsed bridges and other debris in Serbia will begin next spring, Reuters reported. Chenever said that "this is the start of new relations between Yugoslavia and the EU. It is our aim to begin work at the start of spring...and finish by the end of the summer." The EU has allocated 22 million euros ($18.85 million) to clear the river. PB

KOSOVAR SERB SAYS SERBIAN ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN KOSOVA

Momcilo Trajkovic, the coordinator of Kosova policy for the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, said on 14 November in Belgrade that the 23 December Serbian elections will also be held in Kosova, Reuters reported. Trajkovic said that because of violence against ethnic Serbs in Kosova, polling places will be set up only in places "where there is securtiy, for example in Gracanica, in Strpce." But a spokeswoman for Kosova's UN-led administration said international officials are still discussing the issue. Trajkovic said holding the elections in Kosova "will not bother anyone in Kosovo but will politically support the establishment of democratic forces in Serbia and Yugoslavia." PB

ZAGREB WON'T SUPPORT BOSNIAN CROAT NATIONALIST DAILY

Croatian President Stipe Mesic said on 14 November that Zagreb will not support Bosnian Croat leaders whose goal is to recreate the wartime state known as Herzeg-Bosna, Reuters reported. Mesic said in an interview with the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni Avaz" that Bosnia-Herzegovina must remain united. He said that "it must seek the realization of its goal, and that is the European Union." Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said the previous day that "Croatia has a constitutional obligation to monitor events in Bosnia and look after the welfare of Bosnian Croats. However, unlike the previous government, we do not want to abuse that." He added that some Bosnian Croat political forces "are actually fighting to maintain their political and material monopoly in Bosnia." PB

DRNOVSEK NAMED SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER

Slovenian President Milan Kucan named Janez Drnovsek prime minister on 14 November, AP reported. The nomination must be approved by the legislature before Drnovsek can choose a cabinet and assume power. Except for a six-month period this year, Drnovsek has been Slovenia's premier since 1992. His center-left Liberal Democratic Party won a majority of votes in the 15 October elections. PB

ROMANIAN SENATE WANTS GOVERNMENT TO STOP PRIVATIZATION

The upper house of the parliament has approved a motion proposed by the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) asking the government to stop all privatization efforts until the new government is formed after the 26 November elections, Romanian media reported on 14 November. The motion was also supported by senators from the coalition member Democratic Party, while most of the senators from the other coalition member, the National Liberal Party, abstained. Premier Mugur Isarescu considered the motion "wrong" and "useless." State Property Fund chairman Radu Sarbu warned that the motion could harm the country's relations with the World Bank and contradicts Romania's medium-term strategy for joining the EU. The European Commission's annual report on candidate countries' performances released earlier this month called on the government to speed up economic reform and the privatization process. ZsM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES FAILS TO ADOPT RESTITUTION LAW

The Chamber of Deputies ended its mandate on 14 November without having adopted a law on the restitution of properties confiscated by the communist regime, Mediafax reported. While a large majority in the Senate approved the "mediation report" on the two versions of the law adopted by the two houses of the parliament, the lower house had to suspend work on the bill owing to the lack of a quorum. The passage of the bill was one of the main priorities of the government coalition. ZsM

SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER SUPPORTS LIFTING VISA REGIME FOR BULGARIANS

Anna Lindh said in Sofia on 15 November that she supports Sofia's demand that EU visa requirements for Bulgarians be dropped, AP reported. Lindh said after meeting with her Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, that "it is important to lift the visa regime... but we cannot make promises on behalf of the EU." Sweden will take over the rotating presidency of the EU in January. Lindh added that "EU enlargement is the first and main priority for the Swedish presidency." The Bulgarian parliament passed a declaration demanding that the visa requirements be lifted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000). A council of EU interior and justice ministers is to discuss the visa issue on 30 November. PB

BULGARIAN OLYMPIC CHIEF RE-ELECTED

The Bulgarian Olympic Committee unanimously re-elected Ivan Slavkov as president of the organization on 14 November, Reuters reported. Slavkov, a member of the International Olympic Committee, has been the BOC president since 1982. Bulgaria was embarrassed by cases of drug use by some of its athletes at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney in September. PB




EBRD REPORT SEES BIG DISPARITIES BETWEEN CIS AND CENTRAL EUROPE


By Ron Synovitz

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on 14 November that countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, particularly in Central Asia, will need at least a decade of large growth to recover from the economic decline experienced since 1989.

The statement is part of the EBRD's Transition Report 2000, the bank's latest annual survey of economic transition in the former Eastern bloc.

The report says the economic recovery that began in Russia and Central Asia around the middle of last year is now progressing rapidly. But EBRD Chief Economist Willem Buiter told RFE/RL that the former Soviet republics still need to implement reforms to ensure that their growth is sustainable in the long term: "There's no doubt that we need a decade or more of sustained growth in the CIS to make up for the output losses they've suffered since the transition began."

Buiter says much of the economic recovery seen in Russia and Central Asia since last year is based on relatively high international oil prices, which have caused income from energy exports to soar. "Net exporters of oil [and gas] have benefited greatly from this tripling, almost, of the price of oil since the beginning of 1999," he said. "We're talking here about Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. They've gotten a gift. Russia's budgetary performance, Russian export performance, would be adversely affected if oil prices came down. [The value of Russian exports] will at some point [decline] because the current oil price is not sustainable."

The EBRD says that a series of currency devaluations in the former Soviet republics since the Russian financial crisis of August 1998 have helped local producers. It notes that all CIS countries, except for Armenia, have experienced a drastic depreciation of their currencies in recent years. Those devaluations have result in an increase in the price of imported goods, thus protecting local producers from cheaper imports.

But the EBRD warns that one adverse effect of the devaluations has been an increase in the burden of government debts that are denominated in Western currencies, such as U.S. dollars and German marks. The rising cost of servicing such debts is putting pressure on state budgets, and countries will have to compensate for the higher debt payments by improving their systems for collecting taxes and broadening tax receipts to include more sectors other than oil and gas, according to the bank.

In comparative terms, the EBRD says the economies of the more advanced transitional countries of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE have on the whole rebounded to 1989 levels. According to the bank, economic output in Poland and Slovenia is now greater than it was in 1989. Slovakia's GDP is now approximately the same as it was in 1989. And Hungary and the Czech Republic, the other successful reformers, have almost caught up to 1989 levels, the EBRD says.

The situation is different in the Balkans, where economic output in Bulgaria and Romania is still well below that recorded before the fall of communism. Output in Bulgaria has fallen by a third since 1989, while Romania's economy has contracted by 24 percent during that time.

Reliable information on Yugoslavia was not available to allow the EBRD to make comparisons between 1989 and 1999. But the EBRD estimates the Yugoslav economy contracted about 50 percent during the past 10 years.

In the Baltic states, the numbers show a mixed bag. Output in Estonia, the Baltic region's best-performing economy, is about 25 percent below 1989 levels. The bank says the economies of Latvia and Lithuania have both contracted by around 40 percent since 1989.

The EBRD says growth in the CIS will have to exceed that in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE for several generations if income levels in the former Soviet republics are ever to catch up with those in Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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